Initial CBA Reaction Was Overheated

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Nov. 22, 2011, will be remembered as a great day in baseball history. On that day Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association announced a five-year renewal of their Collective Bargaining Agreement, assuring baseball of more than 20 years of continuous labor peace.

You might not have known that had you followed the news on Twitter that day, however, as the internet melted down with pundits offering their opinions on how the changes to the draft and international signing process could damage the game.

As noted previously, the long run of peace and both sides' relative satisfaction with the huge pieces of the agreement—namely the economics of the game—meant the focus could turn to more ancillary issues that in some cases had been neglected for years.

In large part that focus turned to the draft and international markets. MLB wanted to find a way to limit the growth of signing bonuses in both areas, having found its patchwork, unilateral efforts to do so over the years largely ineffective.

At the time the CBA was announced the overall reaction to the changes was that the baseball sky was falling.

I'm not here to say whether the draft changes are going to be good or bad—whatever those terms might mean. I am here to say that everyone's reaction was overheated and premature. When people gave their knee-jerk reactions to the draft budget pool, they had no idea what the numbers would be. As those numbers trickled out in subsequent days, it turned out they sounded quite reasonable.

What people were reacting to wasn't even the actual Collective Bargaining Agreement. It was a summary press release of the agreement put together by MLB and the union. The official CBA still had not been completed, and details of it continued to emerge in the weeks following the announcement.

Futures Game Boost

In mid-December, for example, we found out that the all-star break would be extended by a day, something that had not been addressed at all in the summary of the agreement. The Associated Press also reported that the new deal gives baseball flexibility in moving the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby a day later, putting the derby on Tuesday and the game on Wednedsday.

The AP story did not address the Futures Game, which is near and dear to the hearts of BA readers, but presumably it could move back a day as well, to Monday. That could be a huge benefit to the game because it could move into prime time, and it could be played on a day when there aren't major league games going on. Being played on the Sunday before the all-star break begins, the game not only suffers because fans' interest is diverted by major league games, but also because most baseball media still have to cover their major league teams, costing the Futures Game coverage.

More and better coverage of the Futures Game and the draft will be good for baseball, not to mention Baseball America. With the draft signing deadline moving into mid-July, that week could turn into a player development extravaganza, with the Futures Game starting off the week and the signing deadline finishing it.

And covering how all these draft changes shake out in the industry will be fun for us as well. Baseball has a long history of making changes to the draft to try to limit spending, then trying to find ways to get around the rules to beat the competition. And it has never dealt with anything close to this level of change.

Again, setting aside who the changes might benefit or hurt, from a journalist's point of view it will be interesting to cover. At the Winter Meetings, our writers were talking to baseball executives who were already trying to think of ways to exploit the news rules to their advantage, both in the draft as well as internationally. And like us, they still didn't even fully understand the ins and outs of every new rule.

So while Twitter and other outlets will allow us to give our instant reactions to every twist and turn in the new landscape, it will probably be years before we figure out exactly what it all means. After years of talking about significant changes to amateur player acquisition, however, at least they finally did something about it. The next five years will be interesting times.